Posted by: andrewfackler | October 24, 2014

Philip McConnell Scrapbook: A Retrospective on WWI

“We’ve been given a glimpse of the ensuing years,
And these are a few of our hopes and our fears.”

It’s hard to imagine how Philip McConnell, an Iowa State College (University) student in Agricultural Engineering 1914-1917, felt when writing these lines – part of a poem he composed in 1915 – and whether he could have predicted just how large of a ‘glimpse’ it really was. With the recent centenary of the Great War, it’s interesting to look at just how much the young people of the early 20th century – Iowa State alums included – would end up going through over the course of their lives.

My name is Andrew Fackler and I am a freshman at Iowa State University who recently began working as a Student Assistant here in the Special Collections Department. One of the first pieces I was tasked with processing is a scrapbook (circa 1914-1922) created by a former student named Philip Cecil McConnell. McConnell arrived at Iowa State in the autumn of 1914 – right after the onset of World War I (WWI) in Europe. The collection, RS 21/7/260, documents his life from arrival at Iowa State through his eventual draft into the Armed Forces and into his post-war acceptance to the University of California. The ability to view what an Iowa State student’s life was like 100 years ago is truly inspirational, and the scrapbook that McConnell produced captures this time in history beautifully.

Cover of Philip McConnell's scrapbook containing his college seal. Circling text reads "Iowa State College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts." Center text reads "Science with Practice." RS 21/7/260, box 1.

Cover of Philip McConnell’s scrapbook featuring the College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts seal. (RS 21/7/260, box 1)

McConnell was a student in the former College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts and a member of the Dramatic Club and the Glee Club. His scrapbook documents many of the fun times he had with friends during his Iowa State years, not unlike the students of today. Though he would only attend Iowa State for a couple years before America entered WWI, when McConnell was drafted into the military and sent for training at Fort Snelling, Minnesota.

An entry in Philip McConnell's scrapbook highlighting his new journey from Ames to Fort Snelling. RS 21/7/260, box 1.

An entry in Philip McConnell’s scrapbook highlighting his sudden journey from Ames to Fort Snelling. Text reads “The rookie goes from [ISC] to [Fort Snelling].” (RS 21/7/260, box 1)

McConnell’s adventure at Iowa State ended there, but his journey was far from over. Soon after basic training at Fort Snelling, Philip was sent to Nice, France, and spent about a year of training and working there as the war wore to an eventual end. McConnell survived the conflict, but surely the effect of being part of something so large and foreign at such a young age stuck with him.

Training for the Reserve Corps at a school in Nice, France. Philip is pointed out by the blue arrow. Note the bikes that student soldiers used. RS 21/7/260, box 1.

Training for the Reserve Corps at a school in Nice, France. Philip is pointed out by the blue arrow. Note the bikes that students used to get around. (RS 21/7/260, box 1)

The war eventually came to an end when an armistice was signed in November, 1918, and McConnell was honorably discharged from the Reserve Corps in France in February, 1919. Philip returned to Iowa but would not return to Iowa State. In 1920, McConnell was admitted to the University of California, where he finished his education in 1922. He stayed in California until his passing at the age of 99 in 1995.

McConnell’s life is one of hundreds of millions directly affected by the destructive events of the early 1900s, though not all were documented so well. Philip would go on to see the world ravaged by many more foreign conflicts over the years, as well as other dramatic changes in American culture. Although Philip’s story may not be unfamiliar, it comes to us in the form of a tactile document that concretely connects Iowa State to one of the greatest events in world history, and one that should be remembered.

In his scrapbook, McConnell included his letters of both draft and honorable discharge. Much of the collection includes notes about the images and McConnell’s feelings about them, but he wrote very little of the war itself. The only comment he included about the war is the haunting message:

“Censorship makes the war look pleasant.”

I believe this quote to be disquieting, but it also shows a complex side of humanity. There’s much to be learned from the people of the past, and part of what makes the archives wonderful is its commitment to ensuring those voices will still be heard another hundred years from now.

Posted by: Stephanie | October 21, 2014

World Audiovisual Heritage Day is October 27

Although we are a bit early, we’re celebrating World Audiovisual Heritage Day on the blog. One of the most notable features of the Special Collections and University Archives department is the number of films to which we provide access. Many were created by Iowa State or WOI and provide visual and sometimes sound-filled evidence of the days of yore.

Here are two selections from our nearly 10,000-item films:

First, a video of landscape architecture professor Philip H. Elwood’s trip, with three students, from California to Ames in 1927. Below is the second of the two-part silent film. Even without sound, there is so much to take in. Not just the landscapes – which appear quite different than they do today – but the people, the clothes, the automobiles, other cues as to the time and place.

Another film available through our YouTube channel comes from WOI’s “Expedition” series. This episode on Christian Peterson discusses his work and includes many of the sculptures that are still on display around ISU’s campus today. All three parts are available online; below is the first part.

To browse more of our film collection – which covers agriculture, campus, social events, historical moments, and small towns around Iowa – check out our YouTube channel or our online film listings. Happy World Audiovisual Heritage Day from our corner of the University Library!

Special Collections would like to announce the recent acquisition and cataloging of an additional resource related to the Robert Harvey Rare Book Collection of rare landscape architecture publications. Robert R. Harvey, Professor Emeritus of the Landscape Architecture Department at Iowa State University, donated nearly 100 volumes from his library to Special Collections in 2010.

Title page of Harvey's book.

Title page of Harvey’s book.

Earlier this year, Special Collections received Robert Harvey’s self-published essay Collection Development: How the Library of Robert R. Harvey Was Assembled, giving background on Harvey’s work in landscape architecture and the experiences that influenced his book collecting. Many of the books were purchased while living and working in England and cannot be easily found in the United States. Harvey developed his book collection for personal research and teaching needs, and as his career developed, so did the subject matter in his library. Throughout the essay he describes the influences and experiences that led to his purchase of specific titles.

Scattered through Harvey’s essay are personal anecdotes, which make it an amusing, as well as informative, read. For example, he describes a time when he was teaching at Thames Polytechnic School of Architecture, Hammersmith, London, during the 1970s. His daughter Suzanne was two years old, and he would often carry her on his back in a baby carrier while he was shopping in London book stores. One day, the family was “headed for the entrance to the Tube at Tottenham Court [when] I felt a sharp bump on the back of my head. Suzanne had thumped me with a book. When [wife] Ann and [daughter] Beth examined the baby carrier on my back she had about three books in the pack…. It turned out that when I leaned over to examine books on a lower shelf she probably had helped herself to books on the shelf above me. They were books on architecture and art. At least she had the right subjects in mind” (22). They returned the books to the bookseller and had a good laugh about it.

Some books of note from the Harvey Collection include…

One of the engravings from Venturini.

One of the engravings from Venturini.

Le Fontane ne’Palazzi e ne’Giardini di Roma, con li loro prospetti et ornamenti (1675) by Giovanni Venturini.

Harvey was offered the Venturini book by the descendants of a friend, Professor Phillip Elwood, which “contained engraved pages that an unscrupulous dealer could break up and sell as individual prints for framing,” in order to make more money (36).


Plate XXXII from McCormick's Landscape Architecture, Past and Present, show the pergola feature of the Walden estate.

Plate XXXII from McCormick’s Landscape Architecture, Past and Present, show the pergola feature of the Walden estate.

Landscape Art, Past and Present by Harriet Hammond McCormick.

Harriet Hammond McCormick was married to Cyrus McCormick, Jr., a wealthy businessman and president of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company, who owned a large estate called Walden in Lake Forest, Illinois. Walden was designed by the renowned landscape architect Warren Manning, whose papers reside here in Special Collections. The copy of McCormick’s Landscape Art, Past and Present donated by Harvey appears to be Cyrus McCormick’s own copy, with his calling card inserted into the front endpaper of the book.

Calling card inserted into front endpaper of McCormick's book. Reads, "Mr. Cyrus H. McCormick, 50 East Huron Street"

Calling card inserted into front endpaper of McCormick’s book. Reads, “Mr. Cyrus H. McCormick, 50 East Huron Street”

For a complete listing of books in the collections, see the Robert Harvey Rare Book Collection webpage.

For more information on the collection and the conservation work done on many of its volumes, see the Parks Library Preservation blog post on the Robert R. Harvey Rare Book Open House.

For more information on landscape architecture, check out the following collections: Warren H. Manning Papers (MS 218), Landscape Architecture Photographs (MS 392), the American Society of Landscape Architects, Source File, Women in Landscape Architecture Printed Materials (MS 598), the Alliance for Historic Landscape Preservation Records (MS 618), and the Department of Landscape Architecture record series (RS 26/5) in the College of Design.

Posted by: Kim | October 16, 2014

Cy’s Birthday!

October 16th, 2014 marks the 60th anniversary of Cy’s debut.

Cy in front of Hilton Coliseum

Here’s Cy at age 21 (1975)(via Flickr)

Cy, a large cardinal, is the mascot for Iowa State University. If you’ve been in Ames recently you may have seen some of the 30 unique Cy statues placed throughout the city. CyclONE City, running through December 5th, is a community art project celebrating the town-gown relationship between Iowa State University and the city of Ames. Read more at the Iowa State Daily and the Ames Tribune.

We’ve got a brand new Cy exhibit on display in the Special Collections reading room. We hope you’ll stop by! In the meantime you can read about him through the virtual exhibit we made ten years ago in honor of his 50th birthday: Fifty Years of Cy: Our Mascot

Four women performing folklorico in front of a Panama heritage tent.

Folklorico – Iowa State University students at the Iowa Latino Heritage Festival, 2007. (RS 7/5/1)

October 15th marks the end of a month-long celebration of the many contributions Latino Americans have made to American culture and society. Hispanic Heritage Month (the federally designated name) is celebrated at Iowa State as Latino Heritage Month and recognizes the many people who trace their heritage to the Spanish-speaking countries of Latin America. Founded in 1992, the ISU Latino Heritage Committee organizes campus Heritage Month events every fall. The festivities usually conclude with Noche De Cultura – an event that offers food, music, speakers, and sometimes dancing. This year’s festivities included Marcha de las Banderas, Latino Game Night, and Top Chef Latino. The full array of events for 2014 are available at Iowa State Daily.

This photograph, and others from the same event, can be seen in the records of the Office of Multicultural Student Affairs (RS 7/5/1).

Posted by: Kim | October 10, 2014

Happy “Electronic Records Day”

October 10th is officially electronic records day!

Electronic records are things we make all the time – our emails, our texts, our computer files, our banking transactions, our digital photos, and so on. You’ve probably generated a variety of electronic records today alone. On an average day I make a bunch of emails, a text or two, possibly a digital photograph, and lots of general office computer files (word-processed documents, spreadsheets, charts, etc.). Social media posts count too!

So, what is Electronic Records Day all about? It’s a day sponsored by the Council of State Archivists to raise awareness about digital records and the crucial need to preserve them. With paper materials (or photographs) you can file them away. Provided they don’t get water, heat, insect, or fire damage they’re likely to last quite a long time. With digital materials you might lose access to them immediately (file corruption), several years from now, or a decade or two from now.  Archivists have to work quickly and relatively frequently to make sure digital materials are saved.

Managing electronic records is like caring for a perpetual toddler: they need regular attention and care in order to remain accessible. – Council of State Archivists, “10 Reasons Why Electronic Records Need Special Attention” (2014).

Digital Decay and Obsolescence

Computing technologies change much faster than photograph and paper forms. The University of Klagenfurt in Austria has prepared a timeline showing the history of information storage. Things didn’t change very rapidly at all until the 1960s! If you’d prefer a more visual timeline, Dell has created an infogaphic of data storage history.

There is a Flickr pool where you can see what digital decay (also called “bit rot”) looks like: The Atlas of Digital Damages. You may have already noticed this with some of your files. I know that I have, unfortunately.

Personal Digital Recordkeeping

You can be a “citizen archivist” and take care of your own digital files. Here’s a video from the Library of Congress explaining why digital preservation is important and how to get started in preserving your own materials:

Digital preservation at home takes the following basic steps:

  1. Identify (figure out what you’ve got and in what format)
  2. Decide (how much do you want to keep?)
  3. Organize (make sure everything you’re keeping is named, described, and organized on your computer)
  4. Backup (make copies and store them in more than one place)
  5. Check (at least once a year try to make sure you can still access the files)
  6. Migrate (move files to the newest version of the software as it becomes available)

The Council of State Archivists has prepared a tip sheet to help people preserve their own digital records. It includes some of the same information in the video, but also gives suggestions on specific file formats: Survival Strategies for Personal Digital Records (pdf)

While they may seem commonplace now, electronic records will form the backbone of the historical record for researchers of the future. – Council of State Archivists, “10 Reasons Why Electronic Records Need Special Attention” (2014).

Records, now frequently in digital form, will be a large part of what the future knows about us. If we’d like to ensure that our own future (grandkids, friends, ourselves in 20 years, etc.) has access to our personal records, we need to take steps now. The six steps above are a great basic level of preservation using tools you may already have or can get easily. If you don’t have access to newer software (step 6) or won’t be able to keep up with a regular checking schedule (step 5), then doing steps 1 – 4 will still be very helpful in making sure that your most important records remain accessible.

Posted by: bishopae | October 9, 2014

CyPix: ISU Alumni Band

In honor of Homecoming, today’s image features the ISU Alumni Band, performing during the 1985 homecoming half-time show.

Iowa State University Alumni Band, where gold and black uniforms, create an "ISU" formation on the football field during the half-time show.

Alumni Band performing during the 1985 Homecoming football game half-time show. RS 21/2/G Box 1501.

The ISU Alumni Band Association was formed in 1981 by Kirk Hartung, a 1979 ISU alum. In collaboration with the marching band directors, he brought together 165 former marching band members from the graduating classes of 1927 to 1981. The band first performed together at the 1981 Homecoming football game, and has performed there every year since. Watch for them during this year’s game against Toledo on October 11!

More information on the ISU Alumni Band Association can be found in the organization’s Records (RS 21/2/4). Be sure to check out our Homecoming photo album on Flickr.

Posted by: Stephanie | October 6, 2014

Celebrate American Archives Month

Special Collections staff hard at work, RS 25

Special Collections staff hard at work, date unknown, RS 25

Every October is American Archives Month – a time to celebrate the work of archivists and the physical and digital items that benefit from our care. There are as many ways to celebrate Archives Month (or #archivesmonth, on Twitter) as there are archival repositories. Larger archival institutions have a full range of activities to showcase their work. The National Archives and Records Administration profiles staff members and favorite items throughout the month on social media. Smithsonian Institute Archives covers its work through a number of virtual and in-person opportunities. Here at ISU Special Collections, we celebrate by working: accepting university records and donated materials relating to our collecting areas; working with donors; processing materials; answering questions from the wide variety of folks who enlist our help; educating students through tours and classroom talks; and providing access to our collections through our website and Reading Room.

The Society of American Archivists, our professional organization, is observing Archives Month, of course. The association president, Kathleen Roe, recently wrote a blog post and asked the question “Who have you met on your journey through archival records?” She posed her question in reference to people whom she met through the historical record – such as the faculty and staff, students, and alumni whose collections we hold.

Special Collections Open House

The Special Collections reading room and exhibit space in 1971, RS 25/3

But as I sit in the Reading Room with a researcher hard at work and one of our student workers making preservation reproductions, I think of the meaningful interactions and lessons that I learn from the living people that I interact with in and around the archives. For example:

  • Students of all ages, from middle school on up to retirees who are curious about something and have the time to pop in. And of course academic scholars from ISU as well as other institutions who seek the rare and unique information that we hold. Even the questions that they ask, about the archives or about their interests, teach me lessons about my work all the time!
  • Our student workers, who bring their perspectives and questions to work every week. It’s nice to hear what student life is like in 2014 when I’m used to fielding questions and handling materials that are often older than today’s students.
  • Donors who generously hand their memories, or their loved ones’ memories, over for care-taking. It is a privilege to assess a lifetime’s worth of accumulated materials and process them to allow others to benefit from all the knowledge within.
  • Colleagues who have fielded my questions, encouraged and mentored me, introduced me to other archives colleagues in their network, and so on and so forth through the six degrees of separation between me and Kevin Bacon. No, wait, between me and famed archivist Theodore Roosevelt Schellenberg.
  • Archivists of the wider world who I meet through graduate school, or at regional conferences, or at the SAA Annual Meeting – which was held with two other records-centric organizations this year. There is an unending supply of new people to meet, share stories with, and learn from.

Much appreciation goes out to all those who make our work as archivists possible – especially the archivists ourselves. You can celebrate American Archives Month by coming by to see our new exhibit on Homecoming, doing research, or checking out all the resources we have available through our [newly updated] website!

Posted by: bishopae | September 30, 2014

CyPix: Veterinary Ambulance

This week’s featured photo comes from the early days of the School of Veterinary Medicine (now College of Veterinary Medicine) of Iowa State College (University). This veterinary ambulance was likely used to transport injured horse and cattle to the veterinary lab for treatment.

Black and white photograph show a hore-drawn wagon that is labeled "Veterinary Ambulance" standing in front of a building with snow on the ground.

Iowa State College Veterinary Medicine ambulance, circa 1912.

Iowa State University has been a leader in the field of veterinary medicine from the beginning. In 1879, what was then Iowa Agricultural College opened the first state-funded veterinary school in the country, offering a two-year program. Eight years later, it was expanded to a three-year program, and in 1903 became a four-year program, once again becoming the first in the country to offer such a program.

Want to find out more? Special Collections has several collections from the College of Veterinary Medicine. Also check out other Vet Med photos on our Flickr site.

Posted by: Stephanie | September 26, 2014

55 Years Ago, A Moment of Détente

Détente, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, means the easing of strained relations, especially in a political situation. Fifty-five years ago on September 23, 1959, then-Premier of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev and his wife Nina spent a day on the Garst family farm in Coon Rapids, Iowa, slightly west of Des Moines. The appearance of the head of the Soviet Russian government in America during a long period of strained relations between the US and USSR looks a lot like détente – and we have the collections to prove it.

What aspects of this visit can Iowa State’s Special Collections department shed light on? In fact, Iowa State is home to a swath of materials that uncover the stories relating to the Garsts and of course this momentous visit. They include the Garst Family Papers (MS 579), the Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company (MS 173), the Garst Company (MS 642), and the Khrushchev Committee 50th Anniversary Event Records (MS 615). More collections that provide evidence of U.S.-Soviet relations are listed on this page of resources.

Khrushchevs and Garsts on the farm

Elizabeth and Roswell Garst, pictured center, on their farm with Nina and Nikita Khrushchev (RS 579)

The Garst Family Papers currently covers the period from 1860s up to 2012; we are still receiving donations from the Garst relatives. It documents the extended family and its history through photographs, letters, scrapbooks, and drawings related to various activities. These relate to the farm itself and the business that Roswell and Elizabeth co-owned with Charlie and Bertha Thomas, the Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company. Included in this are a number of photographs and photo albums that portray the Khrushchevs’ day on the farm, as well.

Iowa State also holds records from that Garst and Thomas Hybrid Corn Company as well as the Garst Company. The hybrid corn company was founded in 1931 and eventually became ICI Seeds, Inc., in 1991. The records cover much of this history, dating from 1933 to 1973, and contains advertising materials, business records such as invoices and audits, and correspondence with banks, other companies, and customers. While they may seem a bit dry, these records do manage to convey some of what made Roswell Garst the man that he was in the 1950s when he became a known figure in the international agriculture arena. The Garst Company was a farming company that Roswell and Elizabeth’s three eldest children, Jane, Stephen, and David, started in 1941. The collection materials, which date from 1941 to 2004, document through correspondence and photographs the business, mainly its large beef cattle operation. Again, another window into the Garst family that provides evidence of their interests and work around the time of the Khrushchevs’ visit.

Red Boss eats first hot dog

A scrapbook page displays a clipping regarding the Khrushchevs’ visit to a meat packing plant in Des Moines, Iowa (MS 579)

A third related collection is the Khrushchev Committee 50th Anniversary Event Records, which document the work of a statewide committee that celebrated – as you can guess – the 50th anniversary of the visit in 2009. Thirty different organizations were involved in the commemoration, which also boasted involvement from Khrushchev’s son Sergei and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture (and former Iowa governor) Tom Vilsack. The collection documents the events with a number of different items, including materials for the attendees and press, schedules, news clippings, and event footage.

Our collections also boast audio and film related to the Garst family, on aspects of agriculture and business as well as this historic visit. See a list of these by searching ISU’s online library catalog for Garst film.

At this point in time when tensions between the United States and Russia are rising, I find it interesting to look back and see what events have affected international relations in the past. Let us know if you have any questions regarding the plethora of materials on this topic.

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 836 other followers

%d bloggers like this: